Australians Awarded the Victoria Cross
Aaron Pegram, Craig Blanch
Randwick, NSW: NewSouth Books, 2018
Hardback 512pp $79.99
Reviewer: Neville Taylor, 1 December 2020
This superbly presented Australian War Memorial publication relates and illustrates the incredible stories of the 100 Australians who, in the presence of the enemy, performed acts of the most conspicuous gallantry, or daring, or pre-eminent acts of valour or self-sacrifice or displayed extreme devotion to duty in battle have been awarded the Victoria Cross (VC).
The awards are listed in chronological order in the six wars Australians have been awarded the VC. A breakdown of the awards is as follows: Boer War 1899 – 1902 (6 awards); First World War 1914 -18 (64, with 19 being awarded posthumously); North Russia 1918 – 19 (two, one); Second World War 1939 – 45 (20, 10); Vietnam War 1962 – 75 (four, two); and Afghanistan 2001 – (four, one). The Afghanistan awards are for the Victoria Cross for Australia which was instituted in 1991. There are twelve recipients from the British Isles who migrated to Australia listed in an appendix
Digitisation of records has enabled the authors to present a much-fuller account of the awardees’ actions, and personal lives, photographic and artist colour portraits and battle scenes than have appeared in previous works on our VC winners. Coloured photographs of VC medal arrays frequently indicate that their VC action was not their sole extremely brave action in battle. Much of the material has been sourced from the Australian War Memorial records, collection and archives where Pegram and Blanch are a curator and historian respectively. Their text is accompanied by impeccable research, Endnotes and Index.
This is an historic document that deserves to grace all library shelves in order that ‘we that are left’ remember the sacrifice these brave men made for their comrades in arms and their country.
The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.
On its second anniversary of being published, For Valour became no longer up-to-date. Today the presentation of a posthumous VC was made, making it Australia’s 101st award.
On 1st December 1942 Ordinary Seeman Teddy Sheean was a loader on the starboard Oerlikon anti-aircraft gun on the corvette HMAS Armidale off Portuguese Timor. After being struck by torpedoes delivered by a Japanese dive bomber, the order was given to abandon ship. Sheean moved to leave then turned back, and wounded from machine gun fire, strapped himself to the Oerlikon gun seat and continuing firing. The Armidale survivors witnessed him shooting down one of the strafing dive bombers before dying and going down with his ship. The saga continued for days after the sinking, with incredible delays before search efforts were launched. The action saw a ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ awarded posthumously to Sheehan.
A 30-year battle for adequate recognition for Sheean came to fruition today on the 78th anniversary of Teddy’s action, with the Governor General, General Hurley, presenting the Victoria Cross to Garry Ivory (Sheean’s nephew). Sheean has two additional distinctions: that of being the youngest Australian to receive the VC, and the first RAN recipient of the award.